Richard Childress Racing has announced that Jeff Burton will drive the No. 30 America Online Chevrolet starting at Michigan International Speedway next weekend. Richard Children and Jeff Burton answer questions regarding Thursday's ...
Richard Childress Racing has announced that Jeff Burton will drive the No. 30 America Online Chevrolet starting at Michigan International Speedway next weekend. Richard Children and Jeff Burton answer questions regarding Thursday's announcement.
Richard Childress , Owner of Richard Childress Racing
"This is something that we've been looking forward to for a long time. We go back to the day that Dale Earnhardt even started talking about retiring, maybe '98 or '99, not so much about retiring but who was going to get in the 3 car. This guy's name kept coming up. I know he kept wearing them out there for a while. To have him in an RCR car today means a whole lot to me personally. I'm looking forward to the things we can do. He's a championship caliber driver. We're going to give him the stuff it takes. This thing ain't going to turn around over night. It's something we're going to work at. By being able to start out this year with it, it's going to give us a huge advantage to be able to be ready to go next year."
Jeff Burton , future driver of the No. 30 America Online Chevrolet
"First of all, you guys owe us a thought of gratitude because we gave you something to do on a day where it's raining. I know there's food in here so it makes all you guys happy. This is something, as Richard says, Dale was wearing me out. He was coming to the motor home. He was a great Richard Childress promoter. He was pretty big on me going over there and driving. I had my commitments and loyalty to Roush Racing. With what we've gone through this year and the sponsor struggles that we've been part of, to me this feels like a new beginning. Leaving Roush was a difficult decision but going to Richard Childress Racing was an easy decision. Richard has a huge amount of respect from everybody in the garage from not only to be a great race car team owner to being a great person as well. I'm real excited about being a part of the organization. Richard made a comment about it not turning around over night. He's right. Racing is hard. This is a tough business. I'm leaving the 99 at a time when I think we really had started to turn the corner and run a lot better. But at the same time, long term I feel real good about our chances and short term too. We're not planning on going to Michigan and running bad. I can tell you that. We sat down and spent some time with the team. We're ready to go. We're ready to go to Michigan and have a chance to run well and compete at the highest level and start building on something for next year and also this year. The AOL car owner points wise is in not bad of shape. We need to get that car up as high up in points as we can. We'll start that focus next week. I'm real excited about it. It feels like a new beginning. It's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it."
IF IT WEREN'T FOR SPONSOR PROBLEMS, WOULD YOU HAVE STAYED WITH ROUSH RACING?
"Well the opportunity to drive for Richard Childress Racing is certainly something that would always interest me for sure. I don't know. I can tell you this. I feel like I've joined an organization that is a top caliber organization that has a chance to win championships and win races and I feel like I left one that can do the same thing. I do believe that there is time for change. I do believe that the 99 team is in good shape. I believe Carl Edwards is going to come in and do a really really good job for them. I think the same about the 30 and the AOL team. The AOL team is in good shape and I think I'll come in and do a good job for them. I think at the end of the day I suspect it will be a win for all parties."
HOW CLOSE DID THIS MOVE COME LAST OFF-SEASON?
"We were in a situation last year where we didn't know what was going to happen. That's the best way to say it. There was a lot of uncertainty from everybody's part - from Richard's part from Jack's part from my part. There was a lot of uncertainty all the way and I think that's the best way to say it."
ON DRIVING A CHEVY VERSUS A FORD?
"One of the great traditions in our sport is Ford vs. Chevrolet. That is a great tradition in our sport. I will say that the parties at Ford that I've spoken to are disappointed I'm leaving. At the same time they understand the position and my reasoning for making my decision. Part of what makes our sport great is those rivalries. This will intensify that. That's OK. Part of being a sports fan, part of being a racing fan, is not only pulling for the team you want to win but pulling against the team you don't want to win. That's part of the deal. This will I'm sure intensify that a little bit. At the end of the day I think that's not bad."
ON WHAT JACK ROUSH HAS DONE FOR YOU AND IF YOU LEFT ON GOOD TERMS
"I think we left on good terms. I think it really goes almost unspoken, the relationship that Jack and I have had and the things he has done for myself and my family. I've worked exceptionally hard at Roush Racing. I have a lot of blood, sweat and tears in that company. That goes without saying. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jack. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the crew chiefs and all the drivers. One of my closest friends is Mark Martin. He was supportive throughout this whole process. Nothing went on without Mark and I talking. I left on good terms. I have no animosity towards Roush Racing. Roush Racing has done everything in their power to do the things that were good for Jeff Burton. I've tried to do the same for them. I don't know if I've done it. I leave with no animosity. I wish them only success. When that team succeeds, that's part of the things I helped lay out that is succeeding. When it fails, its part of the things that I help lay out that were failing. That's where it is. Kim (his wife) will tell you, there's an awful lot of nights that I wasn't home for dinner because I was working. There were also a lot of mornings where I wasn't at school for the kids because I was working. I got a lot of blood in that company. I don't regret it. I don't regret it one minute. I also don't regret moving to Richard Childress Racing and putting my blood there too. I'm real excited about it. I'm excited for the opportunity. It's bitter and it's sweet all at the same time."
WHAT WERE THE FACTORS IN MAKING THIS DECISION?
"There were a lot of factors. I really would prefer not to go into every single factor. The only thing I can tell you is that we spent a lot of time coming to this conclusion. This decision was not a snap decision. There were a lot of things that were weighed out from a competition standpoint. A lot of things were weighed out. At the end of the day I made the decision that I thought gave me the best chance to be in this sport at a high level for as long as possible and to compete at the highest level. There's a lot of things that go into that decision. Race car drivers and people in sports in general have bad habits of looking what's in front of them, what's the next game, what's the next race. I had to look way past that. It was a long, complicated process. I'd hate to go into it because I don't' think it would even do it justice."
CAN YOU TELL US DETAILS OF THE DEAL?
"Right now we're going to finish the year up. Right now we're deciding what direction we're going. All that will be announced probably in October some time."
WILL JEFF BRING STABILITY TO RCR?
"That's a great question. That's one of the great things that I see in Jeff Burton. He can bring a lot stability. For us we need someone that these guys can lean on. I think he can bring a whole lot in general to RCR. I think we've been needing this."
HOW HARD WAS THIS YEAR FOR YOU?
"It was hard. Not only for me. I want to be clear about that. I've said this to all of you. I think people forget that this is what we do because we love but it's also what we do to support our families. Our crew members have really been tough. They've been strong through the rumors and all that stuff. It's been exceptionally hard. It's been hard to focus. It's been hard to pay attention only to the racing. Kim said to me about a month ago, I don't remember being in the position where you think about things other than just making the car go fast. I said you're right. That's what I need my focus back on is what do we need to do to make this race team the best it can possibly be. When I can focus only on that I tend to be fairly effective. It's difficult to focus only on that in the situation we've been in. I do want to say that we haven't been treated, the 99 team, as if we didn't have a sponsor. Jack Roush didn't say 'you don't' have a sponsor so you can't do this or that.' There was no let up. There's a huge psychological undertaking that goes on when you look at that car and it's white or it's black and there's nothing on it. You know that that can't go on forever. There's no way that can keep going on. There was so much going on that is was hard to really focus on the racing. That's something that I think I was letting the team down with. It was just such a huge distraction."
WILL THERE BE ANY CHANGES TO THE 30 TEAM WITH PERSONNEL?
"Everything right now is staying like it is. Again we're going to get in there and take a hard look to see how we are running and see how everything works out and how the chemistry works out. We've got to build a championship team and whatever it takes to do that, that's what we're going to do."
ON YOUR FEELINGS WHEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT WAS MADE
"We'll tell the story in a year or so. It's a great story. It was a feeling of gratification. It was a feeling of excitement. It was a feeling of being scared. You have these conflicting emotions. If I didn't have these conflicting emotions I'd wonder about myself. How do you put eight or nine years into something without feeling good about it. If I didn't feel good about it I should have left a long time ago. If you're as callous and cold as that and say to hell with everybody and I don't care about anybody else, then I think you've got problems. It was an emotional rollercoaster. Like I said, it was a huge excitement, a huge relief and also like I said about being scared. When you work somewhere for a long time, I don't care what it is or what your job is, you begin to only think that what goes on at your place only goes on at your place. You kind of forget other teams are out there trying to do the same thing you are. It was a lot of emotions but at the end of the day the final emotion right now is relief, excitement, anticipation and anxiousness as well. I'm anxious to get going and get started so we can start building something."
WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE 31 TEAM?
"Robby and I have been talking. What we're going to do in October is announce everything with RCR, even our Busch cars. Like we've been talking, it takes one domino to fall and that's going to put everything else in play at RCR. The dominos fell. We got that thing rolling."
HAS THERE BEEN ANY TIME FOR TESTING?
"I know Kevin Hamlin had a test planned. I don't know where they are at on it right now. They talked yesterday and I don't know what they're going to do. If we do it, it'd be a follow up on a test we already had planned."
CAN JEFF BE A MENTOR TO THE YOUNGER RCR DRIVERS INCLUDING KEVIN HARVICK?
"I definitely think Jeff can help him. Kevin did a great job going through everything he went through in 2001 on his own without having somebody to lean on. There were a lot of drivers in the garage area that went over and talked to him. I know Rusty talked to him some and a couple of other drivers. He did well. Even in 2000 when Dale and I were still talking about that, he said 'man that kid can drive race car, we might want to look at him' after we knew he was stuck in pretty hard. We couldn't shake him (Jeff Burton) loose at the time. Kevin was definitely a candidate. He did a great job that year. To handle it not having more experienced driver or somebody there with him the whole time, I thought he handled it quite well."
DO YOU HAVE ANY BUSCH STARTS COMING UP?
"I do have some Busch starts coming up and I have no idea what we are doing about that. I know that sounds silly. We didn't even talk about it. There was so much going on that Jeff Smith and I didn't have a conversation about the Busch thing. Actually coming up here last night I said 'hey what about the Busch car?' We only had three or four races left. I really and truly don't know what we'll do there."
ARE YOU COMMITTED TO ROBBY GORDON?
"Robby and I are constantly talking. As a matter of fact, we're going to talk again sometime today or this evening or something. Robby Gordon is great race car driver. He's a lot of fun to be around. Right now he's an RCR driver and we're going to see what's up for next year."